A/N- Sometimes it takes temptation to discover how much the things you have really mean to you.
A Lot to Learn About Love
On Friday afternoon I answered my door to find Matt standing outside, just slightly panting. He smiled broadly when I opened the door.
"Matt! Hi!" I said, opening the door invitingly, "Would you like to come in?"
He shook his head, "Actually I can't stay very long. I just wanted to stop by and tell you the news." His eyes were practically glittering. I stepped outside and shut the door behind me so we could talk.
"What news?" I asked.
He took both of my hands into his and squeezed them. His whole body was almost trembling with excitement. "My band got asked to open for this really huge band that's coming through. We're going to be leaving to meet them and then following the tour through Japan."
I squeezed his hands back, "Oh wow! Matt! That's great!"
"Yeah! It's a really great opportunity for us. This could be our big break, you know?" he paused, "There's only one drawback."
From street a car honked loudly and one of Matt's bandmates leaned out the car window and shouted, "COME ON, MATT!"
He leaned over the railing and hollered back, "JUST A MINUTE!"
I laughed, "I guess you have to go now, huh?"
He looked down at my hands, which were still in his. "Yeah, and I'll be gone all of next week. I probably won't be back until the Monday after next."
"Oh…" I said softly, looking down at my hands as well. Then it occurred to me, "Wait! But what about going over to Tai's house tonight?"
Matt and I had been going over to Tai's to hang out once every week since not long after we'd started dating. Usually there were other people, almost always Kari and T.K. or maybe Izzy would show up, but this week it was just going to be the three of us. I didn't want to let Tai down.
Matt looked up and I followed his gaze to meet his eyes. They were still sparkling that deep blue color I'd never seen anywhere else before. He was so excited about this gig. I couldn't be sad that he'd be missing one little get-together.
"I know I feel terrible that I'm going to miss it. I'll call Tai and explain it to him on the way. You should still go, though."
"Really? Would you be okay with that? It'll just be me and Tai."
Matt smiled, and leaned down to kissed me. "Of course I'm okay with it. Tai's my best friend, and you and he have been friends forever. Besides, I trust you more than anyone."
I couldn't stop myself from smiling broadly. Whenever Matt was around I felt so safe and strong and happy.
The car horn blasted three times again and Matt leaned back over the railing and shouted, "I'M COMING ALREADY! CHILL OUT!"
He turned back to me and said, "So, I'll see you again the Monday after next, right?"
I paused and then, "I think I have to help out my mom on Monday."
"Tuesday then? I'll take you out for whatever you want."
"Tuesday will be perfect." I smiled again and he hugged me tightly. I reached up and wrapped my arms around his skinny body. This would be the longest time we'd spent apart since we started going out together.
"I'm not sure if I'll have time to call or anything, but I'll make sure to e-mail you every chance I get and I won't stop thinking about you."
"I'll look forward to hearing from you. Have lots of fun! Bring me back a CD so I can hear you."
"I will. You're beautiful, by the way." He leaned down and kissed me again, a soft passionate kiss that made my heart beat flutter. The car horn blared and he backed away and gave me one of his dashing, sheepish smiles. Then he ran off to meet his band, "Until Tuesday!"
I waved him off, "Until Tuesday!"
I leaned over the railing and watched until he'd climbed into the car, with one last glance and a wave, and they drove off. After he was gone I walked back inside and closed the door. Leaning against it I let myself sigh. The week would go by quickly. I had school and tennis practice and flower arranging to look forward to, but it would still be sad not to see him.
I crossed to my room and stood in front of my mirror. I'd dressed up today in anticipation of seeing Matt. I was wearing a tight, white, summer skirt and a cute blouse accessorized with a necklace he'd had given me recently. To be honest, I'd wanted to wear the hairpin Tai had given me years ago for my birthday because it went so perfectly with the blouse, but I'd been afraid Matt might feel offended. I didn't normally dress up like this to go to Tai's anyway. I stood for a long while looking at myself in the mirror, and finally decided that changing wasn't worth it. I added the hairpin to the outfit and then went to make cookies to take to the Kamiya family.
I arrived at Tai's house early. I knocked, and then stood there regretting having not changed into shorts or something so as to not look so formal. Kari opened the door and smiled.
"Sora! It's so good to see you!"
"Hi Kari!" I said, moving the cookies into one hand so I could hug her. "I brought cookies," I said, after we'd hugged, and handed them to her.
"Yum! Thank you!" she let me in and while I was taking off my shoes she called down the hall, "Tai! Sora's here."
Tai popped his head out of his room almost immediately. Kari went to put the cookies on the kitchen counter and Tai came out to meet me while I finished taking off my shoes by the door.
"Wow! Sora! After Matt called, I wasn't sure you'd be coming." Tai said stopping just in front of me. He paused for a minute and then sort of blushed, "You look nice."
I blushed back, "Yeah, I got all dressed up, but I guess it's just you and me." I smiled, but as soon as I said it I sort of felt like a jerk and could feel my face flush, "No! That's not what I meant! I just didn't feel like changing. It's not that I wouldn't dress up to come see you. I mean, I didn't. I didn't mean to make this sound weird! I'm sorry."
Tai just laughed and welcomed me in. Kari called from the kitchen, "Sora, the cookies you made are delicious!"
"What? You made cookies?" Tai asked.
I nodded, "I owe you for letting us come over all the time."
Kari came back over with a plate with four cookies on it. "Here you go!" she offered, holding the plate out to Tai.
"What? I only get four cookies?" he complained.
Kari frowned and pulled the plate away as he reached for it. "No, you only get two. Two of them are for Sora." She handed the plate to me instead. "There. So you can take them to Tai's room."
"Who says we're hanging out in my room?" Tai asked.
Kari tilted her head to the side. "You have to. My show is on out here."
Tai smiled and patted her on the head, "Alright, alright." He turned to me, "Well, let's go!"
I followed Tai into his room. His house was almost as familiar to me as my own, but I felt weird. I kept thinking that I should have changed out of the skirt, or not worn any jewelry. I wasn't feeling like myself. I was probably just wishing that Matt was there.
Tai had always been good at reading my mind, "So Matt's going to be opening for some major band, huh?"
He grabbed a cookie off the plate and then sat down in his computer chair. I sat on his bed with the plate in my lap. "Yeah. He stopped by to tell me just before they left this afternoon."
Tai smiled at me. "Matt's a great guy."
I nodded in agreement, then picked up and took a bite out of one of the cookies. If nothing else, I certainly made a great cookie.
"I'm surprised he didn't have a problem with you coming over though. I mean, I know we're friends, but I always thought Matt was the jealous type," he said, also munching on a cookie.
"No, Matt's fine with it."
Tai chewed thoughtfully on the cookie for a while. "That's good. It would have been a shame not to get to hang out with you anymore."
"Yeah, it would," I agreed. "But it isn't like I'd stop being friends with you just because Matt got jealous."
"Really?" his mouth was still full.
"Well, yeah. We've been through too much together to throw it all away just because Matt and I are dating. Besides, I can make my own decisions."
Tai smiled and swallowed, "Sorry, I didn't mean to make it sound like you couldn't."
"No, I'm sorry. Biyomon keeps telling me not to take myself so seriously."
Tai shrugged, "It's just the way you are."
I considered this as I took another bite out of my cookie. Just the way I am. I didn't quite feel like "the way I am" dressed up like I was. It was fun to be pretty now and then but when I was around Tai I missed the old days when we used to play football (soccer) together and didn't care about how I looked. I used to be so tough. I think the crest of love calmed me down. For the first time, I didn't need to act tough to be strong.
"So! You wanna watch the game?" Tai asked, stealing over to the bed and taking another cookie from the plate on my knees. He grabbed the remote off his bedside table and turned on his TV to the football (soccer) game. I finished the rest of my cookie and then handed him the plate.
"Here, you can have the last one."
He looked over at me, "That one's yours."
I shook my head, "It's alright. I ate plenty while I was wrapping them up to take over here. You have it."
He shrugged and took the cookie, and then the plate with his other hand. "I'm not going to refuse twice!"
I laughed and pulled my legs up onto the bed, careful to tuck my skirt under me, and leaned back against the wall behind me. Tai passed me a pillow, and we spent the next several hours watching and discussing the game.
About halfway through, Kari knocked and leaned into the room. "Hey Tai, Sora. Since Mom and Dad are gone this weekend, what do you guys want to eat?"
Tai scrunched up his face like he was thinking about it really hard. Kari came into the room and leaned against the end of the bed. She gave me a look like this was often the outcome of such a question. After a few seconds over which Tai hummed and hawed, I offered a suggestion.
"We could order a pizza."
Tai put in the call and missed an amazing goal, which Kari and I were quick to rub in his face. He then pushed his way in, sitting down right between me and Kari so that both of us had to move to let him wedge in.
When Kari got a phone call not long after and got up to leave, Tai didn't move. We were taking up only about a fourth of the bed between us, and I thought about making him move, or moving closer to the bed frame myself, but another thought crossed my mind at the same moment: I could lean my head on his shoulder.
Inwardly I sighed. This was one of those things I supposed I would never outgrow. I hugged my knees closer to my chest and hoped the pizza wouldn't take too long to arrive.
It did take a while. The game was nearly over when the delivery man showed up. Kari had already apologized and run off to a friend's house so that Tai and I were left to finish the pizza on our own. More awkwardly, Tai was so absorbed in the game that he and the delivery man ended up standing in the doorway to his room watching the game until the very end, at which point our team lost and we all reminisced dramatically before remembering we'd ordered pizza, paying the man, and ushering him out the door.
Tai left the TV on, but turned it mute while we sat down in the middle of his bedroom floor to eat the pizza. My stomach was growling by that time, and I blushed.
"Well, Itadekimasu!" I said, and he responded with the same, and an offer of cold soda, while we dug into the pizza.
Whatever awkwardness I'd felt before melted away as we sat there and ate and talked about school and sports and shared our memories of the digital world. Tai had almost failed a few classes last term and was groaning about having to retake classes. I laughed. My mom would have been so disappointed with me if I'd had to retake any of my classes.
It was nearly midnight when the pizza was done and we were sprawled out on the floor, laughing and tossing a throw pillow back and forth casually. Kari had come back a little earlier and told us she was going to bed, and I'd considered going home, but we'd just kept talking so I forgot about leaving.
After Tai made a particularly bad catch, I leaned over to check my phone out of habit, making sure I hadn't missed any calls from Matt. When I looked up, Tai caught me off guard.
"Hey Sora, do you love him?"
I started, and was barely able to react in time to catch the pillow as it shot across at me. "Who? Matt?"
I tossed it back and he caught it squarely this time, and then hugged it. "Yeah, Matt."
I thought about it for a moment, and the pause hanging in the air brought a flush to my face, "Um… I don't know. Maybe. I mean, I don't want to rush in like that. I want to let it happen naturally. See how it goes…"
"Oh, ok," he said softly.
I held up my hands for him to toss the pillow back to me, and he did so. "Why do you ask?"
He shrugged and caught the pillow, then tossed it back right away, "I don't know. It's stupid."
This time I held it. "What?"
He wasn't looking at me. "I was just wondering, you know?"
I threw the pillow back and it hit him in the side of the head. I apologized, but he shrugged it off. I could feel the light atmosphere of the room growing heavy. I fidgeted with the edge of my stupid skirt. "Tai, what is it?"
He looked at me and then down at the empty pizza box. "I don't know. I just… I always thought that… maybe you liked… me?"
He tossed the pillow back with the last word and I barely caught it before it hit my face squarely. It took several seconds for my brain to register what he'd just said. When it did, I couldn't look straight at him anymore. I dug my fingers into the pillow for support. "Tai…"
He got up and shook his head, "It's stupid. Forget I said anything. It's just really late is all." He stepped behind me and flung himself dramatically down on his bed. As he did, it sent a gush of air through the room, ruffling my hair. I instinctively reached up to keep my hair in place and as I did so my fingers brushed that stupid, stupid hairpin. I was at a loss.
"No, don't worry about it. It doesn't matter. I'm sorry."
I shook my head and tried to make myself turn around to face him, but I couldn't. I hugged the pillow. "But I did, Tai. I always liked you."
There was a shifting on the bed, and I started to turn around to face him, when I realized he'd slid off the bed and was sitting beside me. Then in a breath… his lips touched mine.
It was as though my world had been spinning in the rinse cycle of a washing machine and suddenly it all froze and became balanced, clean and clear like it had never been before.
Everything felt so right. My mind was at peace with itself. He gently pulled away. His big brown eyes were staring into me with so much warmth, the kind I'd dreamed of all those nights when I was young. I reached up my hand to touch his cheek.
And all at once, I felt tears well up in my eyes and a flush flame across my face and the hand that reached up for him impacted his cheek sharply.
I'd slapped him.
We both sat there in a daze for several long minutes. The hand I'd slapped him with was now covering my own mouth. Behind it I could almost still taste him on my lips. Tears were running down my cheek. He looked empty, shocked at the impact of my hand and at what had caused the action. Finally he turned slowly to look at me. A pink swell rose on his cheek.
For a moment I could only cry. I'd broken Matt's trust. I was the worst kind of human being. This was so stupid. How could I let Tai kiss me? I was over him wasn't I? Weren't we just friends? I choked on a few words, then finally sobbed, "I broke Matt's trust!" Tai reached out to touch my shoulder and I batted his hand away childishly.
"Sora I'm so sorry…" he tried.
I turned and hid my face on Tai's bed, my tears sinking into the sheets. Tai's fingers touched mine, and then wrapped around my hand and I squeezed them. "How could I do this to him? I thought I was over you, Tai!"
"Sora…It's all my fault…"
"No!" I flung his hand away from mine. "It's my fault! I don't want to lose Matt just because I'm stupid around you! I love him so much!"
I could feel warmth in my chest, just like I'd felt the first time I met Garudamon. Tai's hand touched my shoulder, and he pulled me close to him so that now I was crying into his chest.
"Well, that settles it then," he said softly.
"What?" I sniffed.
"You love him. You love Matt. You just said so."
I pushed away from him and looked up into his eyes. They were sad, but he was smiling.
"I'm sorry I kissed you, Sora. I shouldn't have done that."
I shook my head, "No. I—"
He cut me off, "I'm the stupid one, for not noticing you sooner. I missed my chance. You're so strong, Sora, and you've got so much love. Matt's the perfect guy for you."
I was still trembling. "But I just…"
He shook his head. "Believe me, Sora, if you didn't love him, or if you were unsure, I'd have fought him for you, without a doubt. But you just said it: you're in love. That's all I could ever want for you."
He leaned forward again, but this time he kissed me just briefly on the forehead. I looked up at him. "Really, Tai? You don't think I'm horrible?"
"Oh come on! I could never think that about you. Get real! You're still, and always, my best friend, alright, Sora? And I won't tell Matt anything if you won't. After all, he'd completely kick my ass, no matter how you told the story. He'd never get mad at you."
I let out a sort of half-laugh-half-cough and tried to smile at him. The TV was still on, some late night infomercial was playing. It was almost 3am. Tai followed my gaze to the clock. "I should get going," I murmured.
"You could stay here tonight," he offered, and then quickly amended that, "Since we're friends, I mean! Just so you don't have to walk back in the dark. Nothing weird."
I thought about it for a few minutes and then nodded. "Alright. Could I use your bathroom, Tai?" I needed to wash my face and regain my composure.
"Yeah, sure," he said. As I stood up and made for the door, he added, "Sora? …You know I'll always love you."
His gaze was steady, and I thought of Matt and what he might say if I did tell him. I realized that our relationship wasn't threatened. Just because I'd been in love with Tai and he loved me didn't mean that our love couldn't be the strongest kind of friendship. What I had with Matt was still something special that only we would share. I smiled back. "Thank you, Tai."
I went in to wash my face, and used Kari's comb to straighten my hair. When I got back the pizza box had been thrown away and Tai's eyes were just slightly red.
Bizarrely enough we ended up falling asleep together on top of the sheets on Tai's bed. When I woke up, my face was close to his chest and his arm was draped over my shoulder. I carefully got up without disturbing him. When I checked my bag, I found I had a message from Matt.
It just said: "Just met the band. Hope you had fun at Tai's! Love, Matt."
I wrote back, "I had a great night. Good luck! I love you, Sora."
The house was still quiet, though the clock read 10am, so I took it as my chance to sneak out. As I left the room I looked over my shoulder at Tai sleeping so peacefully on his bed. "I'll see you again next week, Tai," I whispered, and I stole out into the morning light.